Salvation Army volunteer has been ringing bells for 2 decades
Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor

Dec. 15, 2006 - For most people, a constant ringing in the ears is a sure sign of tinnitus. But for Rick Cowan, a volunteer Hopkins County Salvation Army bell ringer for the past 20 years, it's a sure sign that it's time for the Red Kettle Christmas Campaign. 

"I like doing it," said Cowan, who explained the money raised stays in Hopkins County. "That makes me feel good."

The Red Kettle Campaign first began in San Francisco in 1891, and has consistently been The Salvation Army’s leading fund-raiser. 

It seems all those nickels, dimes, quarters and dollars deposited into the kettles really do add up.

In 2004, the cause raised more than $100 million in communities nationwide. The money helped to support some 37 million people who turn to the Salvation Army for food and toys at Christmas time, as well as assistance for the homeless, senior and child care, drug abuse treatment and many other social service needs. 

"I think it's a useful way to spend my extra time," said Cowan, adding, "We do need more volunteers."

Monday through Thursday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. "Big Rick," as he is known by his friends and co-workers at MorningStar Foods, can be found outside Wal-Mart ringing the bell and wishing folks a Merry Christmas. 

"I see and meet a lot of people, and the little kids get a kick out of  putting money in the bucket," said Cowan, who describes himself as a "people person."

"I've seen people I haven't seen in 20 years," he said.

"If you're looking for someone, this is the place to be," he added, laughing. "A lot of people go through these doors."

And like a postal carrier, neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night can keep Cowan from his appointed rounds.

"I've been out here when its raining, sleeting — haven't been any snow yet," he smiled. "I just bundle up."

And money isn't the only thing people give. During one cold spell, a patron came out of the store with a pair of gloves for him to put on his bare hands. More recently, a doll was brought by and donated for him to give to someone.

"This is a good and giving community," he said. "It seems like as Christmas gets closer, they give more and more."

Anyone interested in volunteering to be a Salvation Army bell ringer can contact Jo Marie Neal at 903-885-9858.

Older Archives

Looking for News-Telegram Sports and News Archives for January 2004 - November 2008